Monday, May 5, 2014

Ahilyabai Ghat in Varanasi

Continuing the series on the ghats of Varanasi: this is Ahilyabai Ghat, named after one of India's most popular Maratha queens. 

There was an earlier ghat here known as Kevalagiri Ghat. In 1778-1785 it was extended and rebuilt by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar and after that, the name changed. The Holkars were a Maratha clan which ruled the Malwa kingdom (present day Madhya Pradesh) with their capital at Indore and Maheshwar. Queen Ahilyabai was renowned not only for leading her men in battle, but also for her patronage of culture, arts and religion. In her 30-year reign, she built literally thousands of wells, temples, dharamshalas and did many other charitable works, for which she received enormous respect from people all over India.

 At this ghat there is a palace and residential compound. The palace compound opens towards the city side, there is a gateway there with a noubat-khana (welcoming drum). There is also a group of religious buildings including temples and servants’ quarters, some of which are used as an akhada. There are two temples on the ghat in Nagara style, and in addition there is a Hanuman temple and Shiva temple also. The quarters of the Brahmin priests attached to the Indore estate are also on this ghat; it is a set of 10 houses and is called Brahmapuri (it is on a street parallel to the river).

The building in yellow is where Pandit Kaviraj Ashutosh Bhattacharya lived. He came from a lineage of ayurvedic doctors, but was blessed with musical ability. He was famous as both an extraordinary tabla player and teacher and reputed Ayurvedic doctor.

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